MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, ND, UNITED STATES
Story by Airman 1st Class Alyssa Akers
The taste of spices fill the air while the thought of food fills your stomach with a sense of comfort. Almost nothing beats a hearty home-cooked meal after a long, hard day at work.
Missile field Airmen may be miles away from what they consider home, but Team Minot leadership ensures the missile alert facilities feel like home.
Airman 1st Class Amanda Owen, 5th Force Support Squadron missile chef, is one of many Airmen who work in the missile complex to provide one of the most vital necessities to missileers, maintainers and defenders deployed to a MAF: nutrition.
“After 12 hours at a launch facility, I can get very hungry,” said Airman 1st Class Spencer Day, 791st Missile Security Forces Squadron defender. “Knowing that my team and I can come back to a hot and ready meal keeps us moving and does a lot for morale.”
Although only one chef is assigned to each MAF, they are responsible for all made-to-order meals. Chefs cook breakfast, lunch, dinner and a late night meal, for 10 to 20 Airmen.
“The days can get long, but I enjoy my time out there,” said Owen. “By cooking for these Airmen, I’ve built countless relationships and made friends.”
Owen spends a lot of time in the kitchen, especially during maintenance days.
“On average, I make 20 to 30 meals a day,” said Owen. “[But] If there’s maintenance happening nearby, I could make that same amount during just one [mealtime].”
Missile chefs are also required to inventory their supply. On Mondays and Thursdays, working Airmen not in the field, pack rations for the MAFs low on food then send it out the next day.
“The last thing we want is to be out of food Airmen want,” said Owen. “That’s why it’s important to make sure we have the proper amounts of food. If we don’t, we pack some up and send it out when the chefs swap out.”
They also have other duties outside the missile complex. For every four days in the missile field, Owen is back on base for five. A few of those days are designated for work and training.
While in the field, in between cooking, cleaning and preparing meals, chefs have time to work on personal goals such as education.
“We have enough time off to be able to complete school work,” said Owen. “Once I complete my [career development course], I plan on starting on my bachelor’s degree.”
Although most weeks are routine, some events throughout the year can change a missile chef’s schedule.
“Things come up; some Airmen get sick or are put on profile, which means they can’t go to the missile field,” said Owen. “Because of this, some Airmen have to work longer to cover [shifts], but our leadership balances it out [by giving us back our days off].”
Every year, codes that open MAFs and LFs for security or maintenance are changed. During this time, leadership assigns two chefs to each MAF during their designated days due to the incredible amount of Airmen assigned out there.
“Some normal days are hectic, but it can be [even busier] during this time,” said Owen. “There’s a lot of people, which means a lot to cook for, but we take care of them.”
Airmen take care of Airmen at every base, but the missile complex brings the Airmen closer in an austere environment.
“Having an Air Force family makes it easier for those in the missile field to be away from home,” said Owen. “With just a hot meal, we help create a home away from home.”